2017 Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day: The Mission Remains

Fans and friends of the late Kurt Caselli flock to Glen Helen Raceway to participate in the 2017 Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day.

One of the most popular events on the Kurt Caselli Foundation calendar is the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino, California, now in its fifth year.

Caselli Memorial Ride Day
Hundreds of riders and bikes filled Glen Helen’s motocross track near the end of the day in the traditional tribute lap at the Fifth Annual Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

The Kurt Caselli Foundation’s (KCF) mission is to protect and save the lives of off-road riders. Therefore, it relies on the generosity of people who donate money to the organization, which then disburses it in ways it believes align with its core mission.

Held on December 2, the latest edition of the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day drew another huge throng of the legendary Caselli’s fans, friends and family, all of whom enjoyed the day at one of the world’s most famous motocross tracks and its lesser known network of trails plus donating to the cause via a number of raffles and auctions for items that many companies pitched in to. In addition, attendees had the option of staying over with the addition of the brand-new Camp Caselli that featured movies on a huge blow-up screen, a live band and camaraderie around the campfire.

While most of those who participate in the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day naturally come from the SoCal area, both Rockstar Energy Husqvarna and FMF KTM imported several of their off-road stars with FMF KTM enduro champ Russell Bobbitt coming from Georgia. He’s been able to take part at three previous editions.

Caselli Memorial Ride Day
Caselli grew up racing AMA District 37 events so this year the Kurt Caselli Foundation donated $10,000 to Riders Helping Riders, which provides financial assistance to those injured in D-37 events. Nancy Caselli of the KCF presented RHR representative Sheri Kibbe with the check while KCF members Don Emler, Jr. (far left), Quinn Cody (near right) and Antti Kallonen (far right) looked on. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

“I have a great time coming, and it just feels good knowing that everyone’s here in remembrance of Kurt and makes us think about why we do this: to be happy and enjoy dirt bikes and that there’s more to life [than just racing],” Bobbitt said.

Beta’s Max Gerston was a first-time attendee of the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day, driving from Arizona with fellow Beta racer Joe Wasson in order to take in both the Ride Day and the next day’s KCF-presented first aid class.

“It means a lot to me,” Gerston said. “I’m really glad I could be here and just be a part of it. The team race was super-fun, and I think the smiles on everybody’s faces is a perfect reflection of the imprint that Kurt left on this community.”

Caselli Memorial Ride Day
Taylor Robert (shown) demonstrated why he’s won the ISDE, setting the fast times (and putting in three very consistent laps to boot) in the enduro test. He was the only rider to get under the two minute and 20-second barrier with his 2:17 fastest lap, besting even retired MX champ Ryan Villapoto whose best was 2:24. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

And fun was definitely the focus throughout the day. Though there were a couple “races,” they were more fun-type events than high-stakes competition. The ISDE-style enduro test was probably the closest to a genuine race; each rider paid $5 to get three shots at a lap of the dry, tricky loop cut into the brush in the hills west of the motocross track. Each lap was timed with the accumulated total the rider’s score.

To no one’s surprise, FMF KTM’s ISDE champion Taylor Robert set the quickest individual lap and fastest overall time, 2minutes and 17 seconds and a total of 6:54. (His individual laps were a super-consistent 2:19, 2:17 and 2:18.) SRT Husqvarna rider J.T. Baker proved second-fastest with his 2:33, 2:23, 2:24 for a 7:20 followed by Jacob Argubright who rode a borrowed Yamaha to 2:29, 2:25, 2:27 and 7:21 total.

What was surprising was retired MX champ Ryan Villapoto showing up to the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day, paying his $5 and, despite having never done such a competition, riding his MX-spec KX450F to sixth overall with his 2:30, 2:24, 2:29 and 7:23 total, putting him into a tie for fifth with FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Dante Oliveira.

Caselli Memorial Ride Day
A few years ago, the KCF began its scholarship program. This year’s spring semester recipient of a $2500 scholarship was Brendan Crow, who is in his senior year at California State University, San Bernardino, where he’s pursuing a degree in cyber security while racing whenever time and studies permit. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

The other “race” was the hugely entertaining team race where teams of two (a regular rider and his partner, a pro whose name he drew out of a jar) alternated laps around the Glen Helen motocross track. Before the second rider could take off, they had to exchange boxer shorts worn outside their riding gear, which made for several boxer-change methods and lots of laughs. Carlin Dunne, who has a starring role in Dana Brown’s latest film, Dust 2 Glory, drew SCORE Baja champ Mark Samuels as partner and they claimed the perpetual trophy by six seconds over the Cody Miller/Russell Bobbitt duo and Jesse Ziegler/Taylor Robert (who was last year’s winner).

“Growing up on the East Coast, I never thought I would be traveling [to California], especially to ride dirt bikes,” new FMF KTM team member Ben Kelley said. “It means a lot [to come to the Ride Day]. I know the more people that come, the better to support the memory of Kurt and how he had such a big impact on the sport and just try to follow in his footsteps and be as good of an influence as I can.”

Caselli would certainly approve. As he once said, “Be remembered as a person, not a racer.” He will always remembered as a champion in both respects.